Monday, May 14, 2012

Angel: Awakening (4.10)

Awakening is a nice encapsulation of season four's strengths and weaknesses. You spend the first forty minutes having ridiculous levels of fun, the story full of booby traps and mysteries and earth-shattering action sequences. But then things start getting a little silly. You find yourself on the verge of throwing things at the screen, wondering why on earth characters you know and love are behaving so irrationally -- "why is Angel having romantic sex with somebody he loves??", you cry! Then, out of nowhere, the show tosses a game-changer of a doozy of a surprise right at you, making you question everything you saw and everything you thought you knew. All you do know is that you're tuning in next week...

On a surface level, everything's coming up roses. But Awakening also showcases Angel's failings right now, in that characters are behaving irrationally even before we discover most of the episode is an elaborate fake-out. In pursuing this kind of frantic, balls-to-the-wall serialization, Angel has lost some of its heart along the way -- turning our ensemble into more or less players on a chessboard, rather than fleshed-out individuals in the middle of an elaborate storyline.

Whichever way you fold, Awakening remains entertaining, but generally only as a result of that ending. Before the final scene, you can't help but feel like this is all happening a little too fast. Cordelia has a vision of a mystical sword that can kill the Beast, Angel finds it and kills the Beast, bonds with Connor and bumps uglies with Cordy. It's all pretty cut-and-dry, like the show got a last-minute cancellation notice and had to speed through the various sagas running right now.

But it's only through that twist that you suddenly spot the underlying tragedy of the hour, seeing the piece-by-piece happiness of Angel's life and his inner desire to re-connect the shattered glass that has become of his mystery team. The problem is that life can't be sped forward like that, and no matter how much everybody sort of wants everything to come together like it did in Angel's dreams, resentment and anger still bubbles under the surface -- and that can't be undone. It's an intriguing moral, and forcing us to come up with answers all on our own after the episode wraps up is an interesting position to place the audience.

But while Awakening leaves you wanting more, there's definitely that ever-noticeable element where everything is happening to service a batshit story arc, something far removed from the better-structured arcs that we've seen over the last two seasons. Fun, but lightweight. C+

Guest stars Andy Hallett (Lorne); Vladimir Kulich (The Beast); Roger Yuan (Wo-Pang)
Writers David Fury, Steven S. DeKnight Director James A. Contner


  1. I actually loved this episode, obviously because of the ending but still most of the episode went along at a cracking pace with a lot of the spark that has only been appearing intermittently of late. I ignored the bad Cordy (and Connor) characterisation because you can't watch Season 4 without suspedning character disbelief completely.

    What really frustrated me in this and the last episode was that once it was decided to bring forth Angelus in order to find out more about the Beast, the gang's plan A is to remove Angel's soul. Why not devote 5 minutes in this or the last episode to drugging Angel up to his eyeballs with happy pills ala Eternity 1.7 as plan A? Have it not work for their purposes because it's really not Angelus coming out, pseudo-Angelus, whatever. But give us die-hard fans the respect to know we will remember even though some of the writers don't want to. It's not even as if this plot hole can be blamed on the fact it is convenient for Cordy to "forget" about this incident, Wes was there in 1.7 too and he is the one who says Angelus is needed! Irritating! They should have at least tried drugging Angel.

  2. Agreed that a lot of plotholes got lost in the shuffle mid-season, particularly how silly it was to actually bring Angelus back on such weak evidence.